Wednesday, February 06, 2013

'Don't Work For Free' goes viral

For many years I've been discouraging my students from working for free and encouraging them to arrange an appropriate deal or compensation for the work they're asked to do. The epidemic of expecting artists especially students to work for free started a long time ago. I was addressing this way back when from the earliest days of the founding of the Academy and before.

When I began my career in animation working for free even at a student level was unheard of. Training programs at the studios were all paid internships. Today unpaid internships are the norm. When students were asked to work on a project it was expected that there would be financial compensation. That was the standard and the norm. Today that is not the case. Working for free in exchange for credit on the project or professional experience has become what most people expect from artists who are looking to break into the biz and even artists who are established. For example, it's become standard practice to require artists who are applying for a studio position to take a test and not be compensated for their time. Free test taking occurs even with seasoned veterans of the animation industry and nothing has been done about it. Even at a union level here in the Los Angeles market.

I first met Stephen Silver when he enrolled in my Visual Development class at a school I was teaching at in 1996 and 1997. It was called Associates In Art located in Sherman Oaks just down the road from Burbank. After I started The Animation Academy he joined my Character Design class in 1999 and soon afterwards began teaching here. Stephen went on to great things in animation picking up on our philosophy of developing an independent aspect to your career in addition to your studio employment. And he didn't achieve his success by working for free. While he was with us the subject of working for free was a highly discussed topic among our students. 

Last week Stephen contacted me with a request to help spread the word about his latest YouTube video. It contains much of what we were talking about at the Academy back in the day when working for free was becoming more and more prevalent. Since last week his video has become viral with animation media picking up on it. Hopefully this will get the message across to everyone. Take a look and a listen to what Stephen Silver has to say about the subject. You don't have to work for free and if everyone in the community of artists both student and professional just said NO THANK YOU things will be much different and hopefully the idea of expecting artists to work for no compensation will finally fade away.

It's up to us to make that change.